Lost in the Static (2007 game) review…

Lost in the Static (2007 game) review after the break…

Lost in the Static (2007 game) review…

The computer game “Portal” has emerged as the proverbial “gold standard” of gimmick game play. The entire game is based upon one game play mechanism – You can create your own doors (or “portals”) almost anywhere. Without this game play mechanism of instant door gratification, the game would be impossible to beat.

“Portal” is not the first game to rely entirely upon a gimmick nor will it be the last. However, in both a commercial and critical sense, “Portal” has reached new heights for games that rely upon an entirely novel gimmick.

“Lost in the Static” is a 2007 freeware game by Silver Spaceship Software that has a gimmick of it’s own. Screenshots for this game are impossible – They would simply be a random screen of static. Don’t believe me? Check out the website for yourself – They have two “screenshots” that may as well be the same type of “static” one used to find on old antenna-based television sets in the pre-cable era.

So, how does one create a game when any given screenshot looks like static? In the game, it’s not the static that counts but how it moves. Different sections of static moves differently to form different objects. Generally, if any section of static is moving around the screen like you are, it’s an enemy to be avoided. A seasoned game player will quickly learn what is “good” static and what is “bad” static.

The game plays much like a typical side-scroller; Start at your right and move towards the left, jumping onto platforms while avoiding enemies, both mobile and otherwise. Enemies come in a variety of shapes and sizes; Some are small “drone”-like stars while one is a gigantic stick figure that you have to move underfoot in order to avoid.

There is ample warning that the game may naturally be harmful to your vision with prolonged exposure. While my own eyes did not burst into flames, I did feel a little bit of eye strain by the time I finished the rather short game. As the saying goes, “Your mileage may vary,” and I couldn’t help but remember a game with similar but different eye-straining game mechanics, “The Devil’s Tuning Fork.”

As a game, there is not much here besides the unique mechanic itself. There is not much of a story to follow – Get your character from one side of the screen to the other and avoid the obstacles that will kill you. You learn through trial and error of how your enemies’ static “jiggles” so that you do not die repeatedly on the same screen. Lives are infinite, which is a definite advantage to the player as some screens may require multiple attempts to master. There is no save game feature, though, so people who want to see the game through to the end may want to set aside a bit of time in order to complete it.

Given that the game is freeware, is small in size and relatively short in game length, there’s no reason not to give this game a try just to see the “jiggling static” effect. However, there is also nothing compelling to replay the game after it is completed. There is no compelling plot that draws you further into the game or even a cinematic ending to reward you for your endeavor.

Not lost in the game play of an ordinary side scroller is a rather interesting, if visually pestering, mechanic. By no means does it rival “Portal” for it’s game play gimmick “throne” but it is an interesting aside nonetheless and one that people ought to look at, even if just to say that they’ve seen it in action. With a compelling plot and even a different genre, perhaps this visual mechanic could be effective in another game elsewhere. I’m looking forward to that but I’m going to first give my eyes a rest.


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